- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2013

Hundreds of thousands of young men and women graduate from colleges and universities across the land this spring, and a small contingent of them put aside “the college joys” to take up the uniform of their country, many of them as part of the Reserve Officers Training CorpsROTC, or “Rot-C,” as it’s called on many campuses. With their bachelor’s degrees in a spectrum of disciplines, the students of ROTC are commissioned as officers in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Only the U.S. Coast Guard has its own path to commissioned duty.

ROTC graduates constitute about 30 percent of all active-duty officers in the nation’s military services. Those following the ROTC path earn their education on their own, paid for through a system of merit scholarships. With military training, and its emphasis on discipline, courage and hard work, ROTC comes with great rewards. Given the mind-boggling cost of a college education, it’s a good deal — and a good deal for the nation they’ll serve.

This month, students from the George Washington University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps — a consortium that includes Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, Howard University and Catholic University, as well as George Washington University — received their commissions as Navy and Marine Corps officers in a ceremony that was typical of ceremonies across the nation, but not typical of pride of place. This event was at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, often referred to by Washingtonians as the Iwo Jima Memorial, beneath the iconic statuary depicting the five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, in the heat of the battle for Iwo Jima.

It was the perfect setting for this stirring ritual and what it signified.

The Marine Corps band played, and the newly commissioned officers wore their respective dress uniforms, white for the Navy and dress blues for the Marines. Adm. James G. Stavridis reminded the graduates why we honor those who serve, and how those who serve honor the nation. He reminded them as well of the rigors of service, of their obligation to stay fit. He illustrated this with the story of Themistocles and the Battle of Salamis, a naval battle between the Greek city-states and Persia, fought in September 480 B.C. in the straits between Piraeus and Salamis. Greece prevailed for a simple reason, he said: “The Greeks were free men; the Persians were slaves.”

On this Memorial Day, in the 238th year of the life of the republic, with peril and dangers undreamed of by the Founding Fathers all about us, we thank those who bravely fulfilled their promise, and honor those who will.

The Washington Times